Thursday, May 21, 2009

ARRESTS IN NEW YORK 'ATTACK PLOT'

NYC Police Commissioner Ray Kelly: 'Public not at risk in police operation'

Four men have been arrested over alleged plots to attack targets in New York, US prosecutors say.

The men were planning to blow up a Jewish synagogue in the Riverdale area of the Bronx, the district attorney said in a statement.

They were also plotting to shoot down military aircraft at Stewart Airport, in Newburgh to the north of the city.

The group intended to use Stinger surface-to-air missiles to bring the planes down, the statement said.

The four will appear in court on Thursday in White Plains, and face from 25 years to life imprisonment if found guilty.

They were named as James Cromitie (also known as Abdul Rahman), David Williams (aka Daoud and DL), Onta Williams (aka Hamza) and Laguerre Payen (aka Amin and Almondo). All were reportedly born in the United States.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement that the alleged plot showed "homeland security threats against New York City [were] sadly all too real".

The city has been on alert for a new terrorist assault since 9/11 when the World Trade Center was destroyed by hijacked airliners in an attack claimed by al-Qaeda militants.

The men were arrested after buying inactive missiles and inert explosives in an FBI sting operation.

The Riverdale Temple (image from synagogue website)
US officials named the synagogue as the Riverdale Temple, AP reports

"The defendants wanted to engage in terrorist attacks," said Lev Dassin, acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York.

"They selected targets and sought the weapons necessary to carry out their plans."

According to prosecutors, the men planned to detonate a car packed with plastic explosives outside the Riverdale synagogue.

They also intended to target military planes at the New York Air National Guard base at Stewart Airport, 60 miles (85 km) north of New York City.

"They would travel," FBI official Joseph Demarest told reporters.

"They had bags that were set up that they believed to be bombs, carrying about 30 pounds of explosives which they believed to be explosives...

"They would place a satchel or a bag in front of a vehicle in front of the temple down the block and then two more bags into a vehicle parked in front of the synagogue here."

The arrests were the result of a year-long investigation, officials said.

According to prosecutors, Mr Cromitie told an FBI informant in June 2008 that he was angry over the US-led war in Afghanistan.

Map

He "expressed an interest in 'doing something to America'".

From October 2008, the informant began meeting him regularly along with the four others at a house in which the FBI had concealed video and audio equipment.

The group allegedly "expressed desire" to attack targets in New York and Mr Cromitie "asked the informant to supply surface-to-air guided missiles and explosives", prosecutors say.

In April 2009, the group agreed on the synagogue they intended to attack and proceeded to conduct surveillance, including taking photographs of the warplanes at the military base, prosecutors say.

Mr Cromitie allegedly pointed out Jews in the street, saying "if he had a gun, he would shoot each one in the head", according to the district attorney's statement.

Each suspect is charged with one count of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the US and one count of conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles.

BBC NEWS REPORT.

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